Sunday, February 3, 2019

Keeping Your Musician's Body and Mind Healthy

By Andy Fein, Luthier at Fein Violins &
and Ivana Truong

Playing music isn't typically thought of as a physically taxing activity, but musical injuries are surprisingly common. And the mental stress of getting to the upper echelons of musicianship (and staying there) can take a tremendous toll on your mental well being. Overuse or improper use of muscles often cause injuries like Tendonitis or Carpal Tunnel and keeping yourself in the right mindset to perform at your best can be surprisingly hard. To keep playing as long as possible, it's important for all musicians to take care of their body and mind,  as well as their instrument!

A bronze cast of a woman "playing" the violin which is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection. In addition to not making any sound, playing the violin this way seems very uncomfortable.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Keeping Your Musician's Hands Healthy in Winter

By Andy Fein, Luthier at Fein Violins,Ltd.
and Ivana Truong

If you're a musician and you live in a climate that experiences a cold and dry winter, then you know the constant fight to keep your hands and fingers from drying out, cracking, and becoming painfully stiff.
Musician's Hand Salve from Joshua Tree Skincare
I (Andy) feel eminently qualified to discuss this very subject. Because:
1) I play the violin, viola, and several other instruments.
2) My work as a violin maker/restorer causes constant roughening of my hands from tools, wood, files, and sandpaper.
3) I like to do indoor rock wall climbing as well as mountain biking all of the year.
4) I live in Saint Paul, Minnesota. As I'm writing this, the outside air temperature (without any windchill included) is about -5F (-20.5C)
5) I live in a classic Craftsman style modified bungalow house built in 1939. That means a tiny kitchen with NO DISHWASHER. Actually, if you could see me writing this, I'd say "You're looking at the dishwasher!"

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Oldest Line of Violin Makers in America

by Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins,
and Ivana Truong

The mid-1500s is very early in violin making history. The earliest violins, violas, and cellos still in existence were made by members of the Amati family circa 1540. So, usually, when we think of very early makers of violins, violas, and cellos, we think of Italy, Germany, and France. To that category of early makers should probably be added The Tarahumara or Raramuri, as they call themselves.
Tarahumara violin, made in the late 1800s, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Berlioz, A Snuff Box, and a Requiem. It's Pretty Fantastic!

By Andy Fein, Luthier at Fein Violins,
and Ivana Truong

File:Berlioz conducting.jpg
A cartoon of Berlioz conducting, originally captioned "Fortunately the hall is solid... it can stand the strain!"
Hector Berlioz, like many composers, was pretty crazy. In between composing masterpieces, he even almost murdered his ex-lover  (and her fiance and her mother!) while cross dressing as a maid. (You can read the full story on our past blogpost here)

But besides the murder-suicide plots, he was also pretty paranoid. So while the truth is questionable, here is a story from his memoir, of how his famous Requiem, the "Grande Messe des Morts," was almost sabotaged at its premiere.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Your Brain on Strings

By Andy Fein, Luthier at Fein Violins,
and Ivana Truong

Music unifies us, it's enjoyable, and as it turns out, beneficial to our health. A review of 400 studies done by Professor Daniel J. Levitin suggests that music can increase the quantity of certain antibodies and immune cells. After just 50 minutes of listening, participants had increased levels of antibodies. Interestingly, depending on music preferences or genre, the effect changed. Listening to happy, dancing music caused more of a boost than a random playlist of songs.